One of my New Year’s resolutions was to really challenge myself here at Family Fun Canada. I wanted to cover less established annual events here in this fine city and give some love to the lesser known ones. I also realized I had written about happenings at The Western Development Museum in both October and December. “No more WDM low hanging fruit” I told myself….aaaaaand then they announced the Game Changers exhibit was coming in February. Well played, WDM…well played.
Game Changers is an interactive exhibit chronicling the evolution of video games that takes you, step by step, through the advancements made by the various companies over the last four decades. Wanna play black and white Tetris on a wall-sized Game Boy? This is your chance.
I started at displays featuring games and systems from before my time, then learned about classics like Pac-Man and Galactica before coming to a dead-stop in front of an Atari game called ‘Adventure’. I can guarantee you I haven’t thought about ‘Adventure’ since 1988, but maneuvering the square through a maze reminded me of a forgotten life that existed before I owned a Nintendo.
There was more. SO much more. Instruction booklets unearthed forgotten storyline details (Turns out there is a reason Mario must save the princess OTHER than just the dated ‘damsel in distress’ plot) ‘Yars Revenge’ for Atari came with an actual comic book!
I’m old, so obviously, I gravitated to the stuff from the 80s and 90s, but watching the companies push forward, in a fierce battle that continues today, was fascinating. As I came to 2016 a home virtual reality system blew my 16 bit side-scrolling mind.
This is much more than a glorified arcade from the past- the creative attention to detail is what makes this exhibit worth your while. One machine has a giant dial that changes the game from NHL 1993 all the way up to NHL 2016 -allowing you to watch the graphics and gameplay improve with every click as you rotate through 23 years of advancements. Another wall has a timeline showing every animated version of Mario and Link.
Game Changers is really not that big, but it feels big and whoever had the audacious task of figuring out what to include, without making the information overwhelming, made all the right calls.
Finally, before you exit- there stands the single perfect videogame that will forever unite all game players: Guitar Hero.
The jacket comes off and as I blister through Poison’s ‘Talk Dirty to Me’ I’m unaware there’s a school group around the corner that is NOT at the WDM today to learn about video games and the teacher has complained about the decibel level. It’s the first day of the exhibit so there might be some audio adjustments in the near future but to that 7th grade class C.C. Deville and I interrupted- I offer zero apologies, Poison’s 1987 classic delivers life lessons set to noodling guitar riffs you won’t ever learn in school…..CAUSE…BABY, WE’LL BE…